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Disseldorp, I.

Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

The Oppressive Power of Warrior Masculinity:

How Can We Reduce Gender Oppression?

Although many battles have been won in the feminist struggle for gender equality in the recent past, there is still widespread gender inequality in current Western post-industrial democracies. This means that women are still not perceived to be — and treated as — equal to men, for instance in the workplace, at home, in educational systems, and in television and film.

Perhaps even less obvious than the still existing gender inequality is the idea in current Western post-industrial societies of a ‘real’ man as a ‘warrior’. Although many men identify with and portray various roles, it seems that most men are influenced to different degrees by toxic norms that prescribe what it is to be a ‘real’ man. In essence, as described by philosopher Tom Digby, the ‘warrior’ must be able to manage and suspend his capacity to care about the flourishing or suffering of others and himself.

In the feminist struggle for gender equality, we should not underestimate the great influence of the dominant masculine norms which influence many men in various ways. This ‘ideal’ warrior masculinity stimulates men to see women as inferior and thus cues them to oppress women in different ways. If so, modifying or at least mitigating this idea of an ideal masculinity would likely move us closer to real gender equality.

If we cannot (yet) find a worked-out notion of desirable masculinity, this does not mean that we cannot do anything to modify warrior masculinity. If we adopt an ethics of care and adapt our social policies to this ideal, we can modify warrior masculinity. Out of multiple possible policies, the equality-promoting parental leave proposal of philosophers Anca Gheaus and Ingrid Robeyns is suggested as a centrally effective and promising policy.

If a government implements such a social policy, this gives a clear signal to all citizens of a country that caring men are valued, and that caring work and labor ought to be ungendered. Men will be stimulated to think about masculine norms and the value of care in their own lives, and will hopefully update their norms, where necessary, for the better.

Last modified:19 February 2018 2.49 p.m.